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How to Write Your First Novel in Under 4 Weeks

How to Write Your First Novel in Under 4 Weeks

    How many times have you started work on a novel, only to abandon the project a few weeks later? After all, between work, family, and sleep, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get what’s in your head down on paper.

    Believe it or not, writing a novel takes less time than you might think. If you can set aside a few hours a day for just 4 weeks, you can finally finish the novel you’ve been meaning to write for years.

    If you’re serious about writing your first novel, then just do it. And if you wanna do it fast, here are some tips for doing it in under 4 weeks.

    1. Set Your Goals (But Know Your Limits)

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    What is a novel, to you? Is it 50,000 words, or 100,000? Figure out how long your novel needs to be, then, figure out how many words you write per hour. Once you know those two figures, you will be able to see if your goal is reasonable given the number of hours you can commit to writing each day over the next 4 weeks.

    According to author Dean Wesley Smith, “Most professional writers can average about one thousand words an hour, when going on a novel. Not in the struggle of the beginnings, but once the novel is underway. So, simple math says that to write a 90,000 word novel, you have about 90 hours of work.”

    Assuming that you can keep up that pace, Smith says you should be able to crank out an entire novel in under a month: “Using that 90 hour number, divide by 3 (weeks) and you get 30 hours per week. Divide that by 7 days and you get about 4 ½ hours per day, or converted to words, 4,500 words per day, which in 21 days will get you a 94,000 word novel.”

    Keeping up that pace might be tough for a first-time novelist, but there’s a little wiggle room in there that means you can still get your novel done in less than a month. And if your novel only needs to clock in around 50,000-60,000 words, you might only need two weeks. Starting to sound feasible, right?

    2. Go Public

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    Yes, we writers are solitary creatures. But telling friends and family that you have set this ambitious goal for yourself makes you accountable for your project. If you set a goal to complete a novel in 4 weeks and fail, chances are your Aunt Mildred will bring it up at your next family dinner. If Aunt Mildred’s disdain isn’t enough to motivate you, then I don’t know what is.

    3. Be Part of a Community

    Consider writing your novel during November, also known as National Novel Writing Month. During NaNoWriMo 2009, over 165,000 participants signed up to try and write a novel in just 30 days, and over 30,000 of them succeeded. If you choose to participate in NaNoWriMo, then you will have support from other participants, weekly “pep-talk” emails from the organizers, and invites to local writing parties hosted in your area.

    If you think that speedy writing doesn’t lead to good writing, take note: To date, 27 novels written during NaNoWriMo have been printed by major publishers, and I’m sure plenty of others are earning money for their authors through e-book or print-on-demand sales.

    4. Have a Plan

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    Noted fantasy author Jeff VanderMeer wrote “Predator: South China Seas” in just 8 weeks, but he probably could have gotten done in 4 if he wasn’t also working full-time and working on other novels at the same time. He wrote a great blog post about how he was able to pull this off back in 2008, and it includes great advice on how to best prepare for writing under a tight deadline.

    “Most of the time, I wrote new scenes in the mornings, revised existing scenes in the afternoons, and spent my evenings on line-edits and rewrites of individual paragraphs here and there,” he explained. “By structuring my time this way, I made better progress than if I’d just focused on doing new scenes all day until the novel was done.”

    VanderMeer also urges writers to outline the entire novel in detail before actually starting the writing process: “If possible, make sure that you have a one- or two-line description of the action for a particular chapter or scene. Know going into the writing for a week exactly what each scene is supposed to do and why…If you don’t know that, you will spend most of your creative energy just trying to figure out what should be happening.”

    5. Put the Pedal to the Metal

    If four weeks doesn’t seem challenging enough, why not write your novel in just two? This is what Suzanne Pitner calls “Fast Drafting”, and if you can set aside 14 days to do nothing but write, you can put together a manuscript of 70,000 words in that time period by writing 5,000 words per day.

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    Basically, just drop everything and do nothing but write. Chances are you get at least two weeks of vacation time each year, so why not take it all at once? Maybe 2011 is the year that you actually do something important with your downtime.

    The Bottom Line

    There are a lot of other tips I could give you, from working in a distraction-free environment to incentivizing the writing process with small rewards along the way. But the most important advice is this: don’t be afraid of failure. Chances are, fear is the only thing holding you back.

    To get over your fear of failure, you need to throw caution to the wind. Write as if your life depends on it. And if you get scared, just think of how different your life will be in just four weeks. That should be all the incentive you need to reach your goal.


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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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